Thursday, July 20, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (17)


From the historical point of view e-books and digital paper are coming into a new phase. There are many books and newspapers digitally available for PC and PDAs and mobile reading machines. There are two new and important factors are: readability and telecom accessibility. The white and black screen looks similar to the paper products and offers reading in sunlight and indoors.

But what are the real chances of a new wave. We have seen waves before. The first Sony e-book failed on several scores: lack of titles, high price for the reader, lack of readability, single-functionality. The second waves of e-books was more successful as there were more titles available; there was accessibility through internet; files were less closed by proprietary standards; prices fro the reading machines were lower due to the volume produced. Readability had not improved and there was a single-functionality.

Now readability has improved dramatically due to the white and black (16 grey tones) and the promise of a white and colours screen. And most interesting is the accessibility of titles through mobile communication and especially through wi-fi. As such the tablet like the iLiad has become as portable as a book and almost as a newspaper (but not yet as foldable).

The high price might keep the tablet from spreading. Sony has priced its electronic book reading machine on 360 till 400 euro. The tablet iLiad of iRex Technologies comes with a heftier price tag of 750 euro. For the readers to be a success the price of both devices should nose-dive to the level of prices of iPods. As the iLiad can be used for e-books, digital newspapers, digital school books, manuals and in logistics, the price should come down for the general reader and even more for bespoke devices.

The success of the products of Sony e-books and of iLiads digital newspaper/e-book device is dependent on the business models of the publishers and the business proposals which attract users:
- kind of products (e-books, digital newspapers or a combination of both);
- kind of financing (subscription base, buying hardware or sponsoring);
- marketing concept: (bundle-in book products, book clubs like Sony does in Japan);
- distribution of the content products;
- distribution and logistics of the devices.

If there is a chance of success, there is a good chance now. The availability of quality titles of books and newspapers, the diversification of the on-the-go devices as well as the technical quality of the devices should break open a new market is comparable with the iPod market.

Valuable lessons should have been learned from iTunes:
- there was a need for songs on the go;
- these songs should be played on iPod, but should also be allowed to be played on a PC or other devices;
- the price of a song should be reasonable.

The reading devices do experience a disadvantage with regard to the iPod. This music device had Apple behind the development of the iPod and the music store iTunes. E-Books so far have had Sony as a champion; but Sony is not an unsuspected candidate for the championship, as the company promotes its own proprietary production format. Perhaps HP might be a potential candidate.


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Blog Posting Number: 447

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